Iceland Day One: Reykjavik

So I just got back from Iceland, it was my 29th country, and easily one of the best trips of my life. Honestly, the only other place that even remotely compares would be Machu Picchu in Peru. But I mean come on, that’s a high standard.

Oh – before I go on, I should note that I would have had a lot more pics, but I lost one of my cameras toward the end of my trip, and it was unfortunately the one I used to take most of my every day pics on. So we’ll just have to work with what was left.

Everyone who ever goes to Iceland all say the same thing: Alcohol is very expensive and very difficult to come by, so hit up the Duty Free Shop as soon as you get off the plane, which is exactly what I did. They make it pretty easy for you, even if arriving at 6:30 am! I picked up some Icelandic Beers and about 6 small bottles of red wine.

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I flew in from Philly on a red eye, so when I arrived, I was beyond exhausted. I took a couple photos on the drive in from Keflavik to Reykjavik, but honestly it’s not that scenic, so not much.

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I stayed at the 4th Floor Hotel, which was really conveniently located at the end of the one main street in Reykjavik, Laugavegur. I thought that I could spread some Aloha (and hopefully get the keys to my room a little early) by giving some Hawaiian chocolates to the girl at the front desk. But she wasn’t having it. I was kind of bummed because I know for a fact that she could have given me a room if she wanted to. The hotel was practically empty, I think she was just following policy. Rules, I don’t think she realized, were meant to be broken. BTW – as with  most places in Europe, the rooms in Iceland are TINY (and INCREDIBLY expensive), so I only took photos of them with my GoPro, which is the camera that I lost. I really wish you coulda seen this room though, it was pretty awesome with the purple wall decor and cheetah print bed sheets =)

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Since my room wasn’t ready, I lied down on the couch in the lobby for a couple hours and then finally mustered up the energy to walk around. I headed up Laugavegur and checked out the small, but adorable town of Reykjavik.  It didn’t take long for the city to grow on me.

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Iceland is notoriously safe, which is part of the reason I selected the country for my first-ever solo international trip. Women actually leave their babies outside the store in the stroller while they shop. No joke.

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I still wanted to nap when my room was ready, so I skipped the coffee and went for a healthy bottled smoothie.

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Before I went to Iceland, I wanted to make sure I was dressed appropriately, so we googled Iceland fashion. We were pretty stunned to see young, beautiful women (and men) all wearing these knit sweaters. I thought the internet must have gotten that one wrong, but nope. Sure enough, these wool knit sweaters are ubiquitous in Iceland. And they are insanely expensive. Check out the baby onesie in the middle!

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I love scoping out the different foods in foreign lands.

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And even more than the foods, I LOVE the candy aisle.

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No matter where I go in the world, I can ALWAYS find some trace of home. On this particular trip, it came in the form of “Hawaii Blanda” trail mix, whatever that means.

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There wasn’t a lot of bad graffiti in Iceland (i.e. the kind of unsightly tags you normally see on the side of a highway). They did, however, have some pretty cool murals.

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Reykjavik is a sweet little town and is very, very walkable.

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I walked up to the famous Hallgrimskirkja Church.

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The pic below is one of exactly 21 photos that I pulled off of my GoPro before it died a glorious death. But that’s jumping ahead a bit. This was also the first moment that I realized I was in Iceland. 9,795 miles away from home. By myself. COOL.

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A lot of people go up to the top of the church and take pictures looking down into the colorful town of Reykjavik. I figured that I could save that for the way back into town, and opted for some shots inside the church instead.

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Continued my walk around town after the Church. Fresh blueberries.

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More murals.

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This is the view from the church looking back down into town.

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The church had a statue out front as well. I forget who the dude was tho.

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After my walk, I took a brief nap and woke up starving. I hit the town to look for some options and found lots of local delicacies. Like the ever popular “Shot and Shark” combo. 1 shot of Black Death and 2 pieces of Rotten Fermented Shark. YUM!

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Or I could indulge in Smoked Puffin and Whale Peppersteak. About $60 and really not all that tempting.

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Instead, I opted for soup in a bread bowl. And it was The Best Soup In A Bread Bowl that I have ever eaten. BTW – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Iceland is CRAZY expensive. Far more expensive than I’ve ever been anywhere in the world. And they really haven’t caught up to the increasing tourist demand, so what little there is (hotel rooms, food, rental cars) commands a very high price. In retrospect, this bread bowl (at about $14) was one of the better deals to be had in Iceland. It is not abnormal to pay $20 for a mediocre hamburger and fries or around the same for a bowl of traditional Icelandic lamb stew.

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I later found out that I got the last bowl of soup. And I watched about 10 different people walk out of this place with the saddest look on their face when they realized they weren’t getting any.

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This place was really cute and had a nice array of Icelandic beers. The 12 oz bottles ran from about $8 – $13 each, so I opted for Gull on tap. It was still about $9, but the glasses were bigger.

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This was the spot from the outside. If you’re ever in Reykjavik, I recommend it.

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In my 15 years of international travel, I have met some of THE coolest best people. I’ve met up with more than a few of them again in another place around the world and some of them have become lifelong friends.  I was hoping I’d meet some new people on this trip, and I ended up meeting several. This is Thomas (pronounced sort of like toe-MOSS) from France. He and his buddies had just completed 3 weeks of camping and trekking in the Iceland wilderness and they had JUST made their way back to town. They were tired and famished, and it broke my heart to tell him I had eaten the last bowl of soup!!

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Thomas and I kicked it at the soup spot until his friends returned and I joined them for dinner (well, drinks since I had already eaten) next door at the Nepalese restaurant. We discussed French & American policy, their favorite sites in Iceland, and everything in between. Joan & Theo were brothers (Joan is the first ‘animal psychologist’ I’ve ever met!) and Thomas is a math tutor and Ashton Kuther look-alike! I’m glad I pulled this one pic of us off the GoPro, they were my first official Iceland friends and I was happy to have met them!

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